Edmonton 2012 Village of the Fringed Fringe Review: Gametes and Gonads

The notion of sperm as dispensable foot soldiers is hardly a new idea, but I don't think anybody has taken it as far as Gametes and Gonads: a one-man show where both sides of the great battle between sperm and egg come to life and borrow a few dramatic cliches along the journey.

On one side: the military-ready sperm pilots of the left testicle. On the other, the...egg undergoing menstruation for the sake of...the...Goddess...who demands a sacrifice...to better the others?

I guess the quick thing to admit here is that there is no good metaphor for the female side of the equation: why she sheds an egg every 28 days isn't well explained in the play, and let's be frank: it doesn't make a lot of sense in real life either. The egg is almost a MacGuffin in this scenario, a goal to which the sperm must achieve. Which is why the female side of this play remains its weak point: it's really hard to find a good dramatic structure to explain all of this.

The play is billed as "Star Wars meets your genitals" and the poster even shows sperm coming after the Death Star. There's a bit of a bait-and-switch involved here though: other than a single Death Star joke and a 45-second spoof featuring a briefing led by Admiral Ackbar, there is no real Lucasfilm-inspired content. Instead, the sperm training is a basic 1950s war movie pastiche, with the training scenes and briefings providing far more screen time and drama than the actual battle.

Through it all, Jeff Leard plays a wide range of characters: not quite 473,957,155 but pretty gosh-darned close. He manages to fit in not one but two romance subplots, a Scotty character whose strong accent is strangely present in his brother, and a lot of physical depictions of what special effects would usually provide (including one very very long "deploy the collector" montage where a control panel appears and a device charges up which the crowd found hilarious and I had no idea what the hell it was supposed to represent).

Leard jumps, dives, and even somersaults into scene and character changes, and its a very impression one-man show that starts strong and doesn't end for 45 awe-inspiring minutes. The actual story isn't particularly strong (and the android-egg love story will leave you baffled and bewildered), and every once and a while the work looks like its leaving comedy aside for exploring a deeper meaning or understanding only to be thrust back into "one-eyed Jack" jokes and necrophilia humour. It works, and its funny, but the work ultimately lacks a heart. Though to be fair, there's never much coordination between the heart and the genitals.

Final word: If you want a Star Wars themed romp you'd best stay away, but Gametes and Gonads does pack a lot of spunk.